FDA releases new warning labels for cigarette packages

The Food and Drug Administration released new warning labels for cigarette packages on Tuesday morning, with photographs showing a dead body after an autopsy, a man exhaling smoke through a tracheostomy, and other images of health problems meant to deter smokers.

Tobacco companies have until next year to put them on all packs of cigarettes.

"These new warning labels have the potential to encourage adults to give up their deadly addiction to cigarettes and deter children from starting in the first place," John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

"With 4,100 kids picking up their first cigarette every day, and the vast majority of adult smokers starting as youth, these new graphic warning labels will help educate children and adults about the dangers of smoking from the moment they pick up a pack of cigarettes or see a cigarette ad," Seffrin said.

"These warnings mark the first change in cigarette warnings in more than 25 years and are a significant advancement in communicating the dangers of smoking," the FDA said in a statement.

The FDA proposed the new labels in February and settled on nine pictures to illustrate nine separate warnings, including: "Tobacco use can rapidly lead to the development of nicotine addiction, which in turn increases the frequency of tobacco use and prevents people from quitting. Research suggests that nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol."

One illustration shows a cartoon image of a premature baby, with the caption, "Warning: Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby." Another shows the damaged teeth and gums of a smoker.

"We found in the past in research that we conducted... that in particular, the picture with the mouth, with the teeth, communicates the message more effectively," Roswell Park Cancer Institute behavioral scientist Maansi Bansal-Travers, who tested the warnings and others in several countries, told National Journal.

Bansal-Travers said testing has shown the pictures draw attention to the written warnings and people are more likely to remember them. "Pictures really do communicate better than words," she said.

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